Monday, April 07, 2014

Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong
By Brad Gray

OVERVIEW: Make Your Mark unpacks the story of Samson to show how there is more to this man than his long hair and superhuman strength. Samson's story is about how he lost sight of God long before he lost his secret power. It's a story for humanity because it's about humanity. Samson was called by God to be a Nazirite: someone who is not allowed to kill. He strayed from this calling and each deviation escalated in degree: he started with a lion and went on to kill three thousand men and women. Brad takes this fascinating story and explores what it means to live out God's fullest design. when we understand how Samson missed his calling, perhaps we can learn how not to miss our own. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Brad Gray serves as the Teaching Pastor of Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Michigan. He has traveled extensively to the biblical lands of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece, and currently leads two-week, biblical study trips to Israel and Turkey. Brad has a BA in Business Management from Cornerstone University, an MDiv from Western Theological Seminary and did additional graduate work at Jerusalem University College.

MY REVIEW: Just about everybody I know has or is struggling with finding their true calling in life. Those of us seeking to live the Christian life want to know God's purpose for our lives and what it means to live that out on a daily basis. This book will help with that!

This book helps to get right what Samson got wrong. Who is Samson? Well, every student of the Bible knows who Samson is but almost everyone, even those who never read the Bible, have heard of Samson. Samson is one of the great characters of the Bible.

Brad Gray helps us to see that there is more to the Samson story than what appears on the surface.
In this book he takes the reader beneath the surface to see the "big picture." He gives us a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the story. The real story is one that will inform you, challenge you, direct you and hopefully transform you. Samson's story is a story about life!

I recommend this book as one that will challenge and change you.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Monday, March 31, 2014

Experiencing the Savior's Presence
When You Need Him Most
By Ken Gire

OVERVIEW: Bestselling author Ken Gire weaves together stories from the Bible, history, and his own life to reveal how we can find strength and encouragement through the storms of life. Experience the joy of knowing the God who is always there to reach out a hand and pull you out of the waves. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Ken Gire (ThM.Dallas Theological Seminary) is the author of twenty-four books, including the bestselling Moments With The Savior Series and Windows of the Soul. He has won two ECPA Gold Medallion Awards, and two of his titles were selected as C.S. Lewis Honor Books. Ken teaches weekend seminars on writing throughout the country. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

MY REVIEW: Ken Gire is one of my favorite writers. So I was not surprised by how good and helpful this book is. He has done it again. I have a huge library and of all the books on the shelves, Ken's books are among my favorites. His Windows of the Soul may be my favorite book. And now this book has touched my heart and helped to calm my soul.

So many are looking for peace. Ken has written thirteen chapters that will help you experience the Savior's presence when you need him most.  An old song, one that I don't much like, but that we sang often when I was young, says "Troublesome times are here, filling each heart with fear... ."
I may not have liked singing this song, but it was true then and it is true now―troublesome times are here, filling each heart with fear.

Ken Gire says, "This miracle of the inner variety, this inexplicable and supernatural calm in the storm, is the greatest miracle you'll ever experience." Looking at the chapter titles like, "Peace Through Deep Rest," Peace in and Through Music," Peace Through the Body of Christ," I think to myself, that's just common sense. And it is! But there's not a lot of that around these days. And when we are in the midst of a terrible storm and we cry out to God thinking that all hope is gone and seemly out of nowhere we are swept up in peace―we say "Thank you God for this miracle. This kind of peace could only come from you." You don't want to call it a miracle? Okay. That's alright. But if storms are all around and your peace is gone, get this book. After you read it share it with someone else. You will not have to look far to find someone that needs it.

(I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

By Philip Yancy

OVERVIEW: In his classic book Where Is God When it Hurts?, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people. And now, thirty-five years after writing his first book, Yancey revisits our cry of "Why, God?" in three places stunned into silence by the calamities that have devastated them. At some point all of us will face the challenges to faith Yancey writes about and look for the comfort and hope he describes. There are reasons to ask, once again, the question that never goes away: Where is God when we suffer? And Yancey, once again, leads us to find faith when it is most severely put to the test. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies.

MY REVIEW: He has done it again! Philip Yancy has written an outstanding book on one of life's most difficult problems--human suffering. I continue to be amazed by his excellent writing. But I don't know why I am. He never disappoints.

This is a small but powerful book. It provides real and practical help for those in desperate need. We often want to know where God is and why terrible things are happening to us and others. Yancy explores suffering in places all over the world. He recounts his own personal experiences of suffering and tells the stories of suffering people all over the world. By doing this he will help you to respond to your own suffering in a way you never thought possible. You will move closer to God by reading this good book. I predict that before you finish reading the book you will think of someone you just have to share it with.

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

AFTER LAMENT―Psalms for Learning to Trust Again

Monday, February 24, 2014

Psalms for Learning to Trust Again
By Glenn Pemberton

OVERVIEW: Nearly half of the psalms are "laments"―expressions of grief, trouble, and suffering combined with calls for God's help. Glenn Pemberton's previous book on Psalms, Hurting with God, describes how the lament psalms helped him express his heart honestly before God. In this rich book, he masterfully explores how the Psalter also provides the guidance and language we need for learning to trust God after lament. How do we live with a God who said "no" in our time of greatest need? Focusing on the psalms of trust, this books lays out the Bible's answer to this question. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Glenn Pemberton teaches Old testament at Abilene Christian University, including a popular undergraduate course on Israel's wisdom and devotional literature. Glenn has been a preacher among churches for over twenty years. He earned his PhD from the University of Denver and the lliff School of Theology, and is author of Hurting with God (ACU Press, 2012) and When God Calls: Will You Trust Me Now?

MY REVIEW: This is the best book I have read this year. Yes, I know the year is young. But for now, and I have a strong feeling my passion for this book will not change anytime soon. This book is a winner. I learned things from this book that I had never heard anybody discuss before. I preached for forty-seven years,  and oh how I wish I had read this book before those years of preaching were over. I studied the Old Testament at Abilene Christian University where Dr. Pemberton now teaches but I never was taught anything about the Psalms like what is in this book.

I agree with the statement of Walter Bruggemann printed on the cover of the book: "In this book, readers will find a faithful, strong companion in the move into and out of lament, all in act of profound faith."

There is an excellent discussion guide in the back of the book. Is this a good book for a Bible class or a small group to use? If it is in the hands of the right teacher. Many classes and small groups do not have the kind of teacher I think is needed. I find no pleasure in saying this but I say it because I feel strongly it is true. Therefore, my recommendation is going to be that this is a book for serious students of God's Word. I read, re-read and prayed over large sections of this splendid book. I agree with Walter Brueggemann who said, "It is not easy in our culture of denial, to move into honest lament, complaint, and protest." Glenn Pemberton knows the pain of life and he knows how to express his heart honestly before God. I recommend this well-written, wise book to those who struggle with life. It will strengthen the faith of every student of God's Word.

( I received this book from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Walking Where My Ancestors Walked

I have seen this picture (above) of my grandfather, father and other relatives in front of their home on Ditmore Ford Road many times.

The name Ford comes from a small stream of water (a place where a river or other water may be crossed by wading). It is a short distance down the road from the Ditmore home.

My heart was beating a little faster than usual as I walked from the corner where this picture of me, my daughter, Carol, and my niece, Linda was taken. I walked down the road my father walked down as a young boy and man.

I stood for a long time just looking at the ruins of the Ditmore home. And then I walked over and picked up two or three old, loose bricks. They now serve as book ends on one of the shelves in my office. I'm looking at them now.

On down the road I stood in front of the Ford, stared and dreamed. I didn't cross it.

Things are different out on Ditmore Ford Road today than they were back in my fathers day or even July, 2000 when I walked down the road. Franklin, Kentucky is growing. New homes are being built. Somebody else is creating history.


Monday, January 27, 2014

The Day I Got My First Ice Cream Cone 
It was a hot day that Saturday noon in that little Oklahoma town back in 1939.
A crowd had gathered at the center of town and children would be called out of the crowd according to age.
I was five. My group was called for. Mother turned loose of my hand and sent me to the circle.
A man stood in the middle of the circle with a bag of money. He threw the coins into the air.
The point of it all? Grab all the money you can!
I got a dime. Well, I can't honestly remember how much I grabbed but I know I got at least that much.
Just outside the human circle on the corner was a drug store.
My mother took my hand and we went immediately to the store and to the soda fountain.
I was five. I'm now 79. But I still remember.
Strawberry. The ice cream cone was strawberry.
Why do I remember this silly little story?
You wouldn't ask that question if you knew how much I like ice cream.
Strawberry ice cream!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution
By John L. Allen Jr.

OVERVIEW: "This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians," writes John Allen. "Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence."

AUTHOR: John L. Allen Jr. is the senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and the senior Vatican analyst for CNN, and writes for other national and international publications. He speaks at nearly fifty engagements a year and is the author of seven previous books.

MY REVIEW: Before reading this book I knew that Christians were being persecuted. I had no idea that persecution is so wide spread. Part One of this informative book is about Anti-Christian Persecution Around The World. Allen gives an overview and then writes about the persecution in Africa, Asia, Latin America, The Middle East and Eastern Europe. I had no idea!

Part Two covers Myths About The Global War On Christians. Here again, I was surprised. Allen talks about the myth that no one saw it coming, the myth that anti-Christian persecution is a political issue and several other myths.

Allen does not just leave readers "hanging." The last chapter is: What's To Be Done. This final chapter presents a set of suggestions for responding to the global war on Christians. He does not suggest that his suggestions are the only things that can be done. Rather, his suggestions are among the immediate things that can be done, right here and right now.

My conclusion from reading this splendid book is it's TIME TO WAKE UP! Since I don't think I'm the only Christian that needs to wake up, I want to recommend that you read this book and this pass it on to a friend.

(I received this book from BloggingForBooks, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Saturday, January 04, 2014

I have doubts.
Heaven, hell, death---you name it. I have lots of questions. Doubts.
Is it possible to have faith in the presence of doubt? Yes. I think so.
I have faith too. And as John Ortberg says, "I have bet the farm."
I have spent my life studying, thinking, reading and teaching about God and God "stuff."
I believe. But I do have doubts.
There is a mystery about faith that I don't understand.
But I strongly believe that faith is our only hope. And having doubts doesn't mean I don't have faith.
I have faith and doubt. And I can live with that.
I do not have to be certain about everything in order to have faith.
Charles Templeton lost faith and said, "Farewell To God." That's the title of one of his books.
For more than twenty years, Charles Templeton was a major figure in the church in Canada and the United states. During the 1950's he and his friend, Billy Graham were the two most successful exponents of mass evangelism in North America.
I don't have that kind of doubt. I haven't given up on God and I have FAITH that He HAS NOTgiven up on me!
What matters most is not certainty, but faithfulness. There are times when we will have to make commitment without total certainty. For the most important decisions in life, this is almost always the case.


Friday, January 03, 2014

"MAMA, the damn Ditmores are here."
How many times did I hear that yelled out over the years? I was eleven years old. My mother had died and I had gone to live with my sister and her husband. Two of my brothers and their wives lived one hundred miles away and they would drive that one hundred miles as often as they could to come and see me. My brother-in-law was a good man. He loved my sister and the rest of her family he was just a little crude sometimes. Well, most of the time.
I absolutely hated to hear the words---"Damn Ditmores."
My brothers just laughed and shrugged it off with, "That's just Pete."
Well, Pete or no Pete. I didn't like it.
I'm the "baby" in this part of the Ditmore clan. I'm the last one standing. I had four brothers and two sisters. My father was in a mental institution all my life. When I was young people with mental problems were just considered crazy and put in an insane asylum. I was ashamed to admit I even had a father until I was an adult. All through my youth I told people he was dead. My mother died when I was eleven and I lived first with my one of my sisters and then later with one brother and then another.
None of my brothers graduated from high school but they wanted me to and did everything they could to make that happen. They dropped out of school to work and make a living for the family.
They encouraged me to work and be responsible. I did work and left college not owing anything. I went on to seminary and graduate school and earned a Masters Degree.
This small group of Ditmores were the only ones I knew until a few years ago. Now, through research my daughter has done, I am acquainted with Ditmores all over the country and I am friends with many of them on Face Book.
There are many Ditmores and in such a large group of people I'm sure a few of them may be "Damn Ditmores." But not to me. I still despise those words. To me, D IS FOR DITMORE.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Making Moral Choices In A World Full Of Options
By Scott B. Rae
(Based on the Popular Film Series by Chuck Colson

OVERVIEW: In this capstone book to the Doing the Right Thing video and study series―the last major project of bestselling author chuck Colson before his death―Colson associate and ethicist Scott B. Rae shows that there is such a thing as moral truth, that it can be known, and that it can be put into practice. Looking specifically at the areas of medicine, the marketplace, and public life, Rae demonstrates how foundational ethical principles can lead to moral day-to-day decisions. (From the back of the book).

AUTHOR: Scott B. Rae (PhD, University of southern California) is Dean of Faculty and Professor of Christian Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola university, in LaMirada, California.

MY REVIEW: Christians are in a war against the moral relativism of our culture. This book and accompanying DVD series are powerful weapons for the battle. Scripture encourages "Be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you" (l Peter 3:15).

I was surprised and interested to find that the first chapter of this splendid book, We're in an Ethical Mess! begins by explaining the financial crisis that began in 2008 and caused a worldwide recession. Rae helps us to see that this financial mess was caused by the collapse of ethics. He goes on to ask and answer the question Is There A Moral Law We Can Know?

Rae does not just ask questions like: If We Know What's Right Can We Do It? and What Does It Mean to Be Human? he answers them in a clear, easy to understand way. By easy to understand I do not mean simplistic. Professor Rae is a scholar and writes like a scholar but a scholar who knows how to communicate to anyone who picks up his book.

"Doing the Right Thing will equip you to promote virtue in your own spheres of influence and in the culture at large."

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Friday, December 20, 2013

Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants
By Malcolm Gladwell

OVERVIEW: In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

AUTHOR: Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. Prior to that, he was a reporter at the Washington Post. Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He lives in New York.

MY REVIEW: Malcolm Gladwell is a writer to be praised. Reviewers of his books have described his writing as: "Dazzling," "Royally entertaining," "Fascinating," and "A pleasure to read." David and Goliath is another success and could be praised with those adjectives and more.

This splendid book will help you overcome obstacles, disadvantages, and disabilities. We all face loses and setbacks in life and struggle with how to live. Gladwell draws upon history, psychology, and powerful storytelling to reshape the way we think about the world around us.

If you are wondering what all of this has to do with David and Goliath, I refer you to the Bible and the account of the young boy David killing the giant Goliath. Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then, the names David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. From our eyes it looks like he shouldn't have won. But he did.

Read this book. You will be glad you did.

(I received this book from The B & B Media Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Living Well In A Sick World
By Bob Hostetler

OVERVIEW: Life Stinks...and Then You Die is a gritty, honest look at the world around us and the world inside us. It is based on an ancient text of wisdom that many consider to be the Bible's most perplexing book, by a man who seemed to have every advantage―wealth, education, and power―but still struggled to find happiness and meaning. It doesn't offer platitudes. No easy fixes. It doesn't spackle over the rough reality of life in the twenty-first century. But it does offer perspective. and hope. And a plan for living well in spite of all that's wrong with the world and with us. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Bob Hostetler is a writer, editor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty-two books, which include the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell), Quit Going to Church, and Falling in Love with God, have sold over three million copies. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. Bob is a co-founder of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford. He and his wife Robin have two grown children, who have given them four perfect grandchildren.

MY REVIEW: This is a sick world. And most of us would agree with the author that life stinks...and then you die. If life doesn't stink all of the time, then maybe it stinks most of the time or at least―some of the time. If that's all the book was about then I wouldn't recommend it. But that's not all it's about. It's mainly about living well in this sick world.

Bob Hostetler uses the Book of Ecclesiastes in an entertaining way to show how to live well in spite of all the sickness in this world. I agree with Dr. David Faust, president of Cincinnati Christian University who wrote: "...With customary insight and wit, Bob Hostetler helps us delve into the strange but wonderful wisdom of Ecclesiastes as it asks the questions the rest of the Bible was written to answer."

I think you will want to get this book. It will bless your life. You may even want to get a few copies for those you really care about. This book has the potential to be life-changing.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Monday, December 09, 2013

A True Story Of Love, Murder, And Redemption
By Bonnie Floyd

OVERVIEW: Based on Scotland Yard's investigation, newspaper reports, court transcripts, and eyewitness accounts, Bound to a Promise has it all―exotic settings, courtroom drama, real-life adventure, convicting testimony, and puzzling mystery. The key to this disturbing drama hangs on a very crucial and binding promise made to Bonnie. Did the promise maker keep that promise or was there a chance it was broken? The answer to that burning question had everlasting consequences both for the one who made the promise and to whom the promise was made. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: BONNIE L. FLOYD has taken her contagious zeal for the Lord and her authentic love for people to various conferences, retreats and churches throughout the United States and beyond. Her powerful and dynamic messages bring the Scriptures to life for audiences of all ages and offer useful and practical ways to apply them to everyday living. For several years Bonnie served in various capacities with Women of Faith and is currently an administrator for Barry and Sheila Walsh. More importantly, she has a deep love and respect for God's Word that is born out of her service as a teacher and small group leader for more than twenty-three years.

MY REVIEW: Bound To A Promise is different from any book I have read recently. When I first read the sub-title: A True Story Of Love, Murder, And Redemption I didn't think I would be interested. I'm not into novels and that sounded like just another novel to me. But I do like true stories so that part caught my attention. When I read the words: "At six o'clock on a cold, foggy morning in Fresno, California, Bonnie Floyd's horrific nightmare began...but she was wide-awake!" she had my attention. Wow! For twenty years I lived in Stockton, California, just fifty miles north of Fresno. I know all about those cold, foggy mornings. Although this sounded like the beginning of a fiction thriller―I knew it wasn't. It was a true story. This horrific nightmare happened to a Christian. I was interested!

Bonnie tells her story with a page-turning, fiction style but Bound To A Promise is a nonfiction novel."This astonishing true story will grab you with the first sentence and hold you captive until the very last page." I agree with Sheila Walsh who wrote: "This is a heartbreaking story of intrigue, murder, and betrayal with more twists and turns than the wildest roller coaster ride. But it is so much more. This is story of redemption. This is a story of grace and of forgiveness to a depth few of us will ever know." Don't be surprised if this story captures your heart.

(I received this book from The B & B Media Group, Inc. in exchange for a fair and honest review.)